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Lewis+Hamilton

Melbourne Qualifying: Hamilton supreme as Mercedes dominate

Lewis+Hamilton

Reigning Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton fired the first salvo in his title defence with an supreme performance in qualifying, for the season opening Australian Grand Prix, claiming pole position by an emphatic half a second over his teammate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes obliterated the field in Melbourne.

In fact Hamilton did enough with his first run to claim top spot 0n the grid as Rosberg made a mistake on his first hot lap, and when the German re-emerged for a second stab he fell short.

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Hamilton then went a tenth quicker on his final flyer to set a best time of 1:26.327 which was 0.594 of a second up on his Silver Arrows teammate and a whopping 1.391 seconds up on best of the rest Felipe Massa in the Williams – making it three Mercedes powered cars in the top three.

Hamilton said, “All year you never know what to expect when it comes to the race weekend. I feel very, very happy with the job I was able to do but also the job the team has done. I got everything and more.”

Lewis+Hamilton

“To be able to have this performance today has given me a lot of confidence. I feel really excited for tomorrow and energised,” added the double world champion.

The first period of qualifying saw Hamilton finish at the top of the pile with a lap of 1:28.586, three tenths clear of Rosberg, both having only used the medium tyre.

Third spot in Q1 went to Massa who claimed the place late in the session with a lap on the soft tyre. Behind him, Max Verstappen was an impressive fourth for Toro Rosso, with Sebastian Vettel fifth. Both he and 10th-placed Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had opted for the soft tyre from the start of the session.

Romain Grosjean made it through to Q2 in eighth place, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo was comfortably 11th on the soft tyre, with his time set well before the end of the session, but team-mate Daniil Kvyat left it late, the Russian only getting a single timed run in the session after being restricted to the garage for the bulk of the session for repairs to an exhaust fire in FP3. It was enough though to see him through, in 14th place, behind Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado.

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With Felipe Nasr scraping through in 15th place, the drivers eliminated were his Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson, the twin Honda-powered McLarens of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen and the Manor Marussia pairing of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, who did not take to the track during the session.

In Q2 Hamilton led at the end of the first runs, the champion lapping two tenths quicker than Rosberg, with Vettel now third, just over six tenths of a second down on the Mercedes and two tenths clear of team-mate Raikkonen. In danger, from 11th to 14th, were Kvyat, Nasr, Hulenberg, Perez and Maldonado.

Mercedes opted not to make a second run with their drivers comfortably retaining the top two spots. Vettel held on to third with his lap of 1:28.742, while Bottas slotted into fourth behind the Ferrari driver. Raikkonen made it through in fifth place ahead of Massa and Grosjean. Sainz delivered an impressive lap to claim eighth place, while Daniel Ricciardo could only manage ninth place. The final Q3 place was claimed by Maldonado.

Out went Sauber’s Nasr and Toro Rosso’s Verstappen. The 17-year-old was set to progress but a big moment in Turn Five spoiled his lap and dropped him to 12th. Also eliminated were Red Bull Racing’s Kvyat, and the Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez.

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After the first runs in Q3 Hamilton still held sway with a lap of 1:26.419, ahead of Vettel whose lap of 1:27.757 put him ahead of Felipe Mass and Raikkonen. Rosberg was forced to abandon his lap after he went briefly off track in the final corner. Bottas too abandoned his lap, complaining of a problematic bite point with his brakes.

But when Rosberg did string together a final run it was no match for that of his imperious team-mate. The German’s only timed run netted a time of 1:26.921, almost four tenths slower than Hamilton’s opening Q3 run, and when the Briton crossed the line moments later the gap widened to almost six tenths.

Rosberg summed up his day, “”Not a good day, I didn’t get my sectors together. The pace was there, so that bothers me a lot. Lewis drover like a champion today. But I’m thankful for such an awesome car – I was still safely second, even on a bad day. On Friday I was quicker – but maybe that is irrelevant now…”

Third place went to Massa, Vettel was fourth, just over three hundredths of a second clear of Raikkonen in fourth. They were followed by Bottas, Ricciardo, Sainz, Grosjean and Maldonado.

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Final word to Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff: “It was the perfect Saturday but we must be careful about talking about winning a Formula 1 race. It is about letting those two battle it out in a positive way. Sebastian Vettel was very strong, as were the Williams. As much we cab be confident with sheer pace, this is still motorsport.”

Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park – Saturday, Qualifying 
PNameTeamQ1Q2Q3Laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:26.327
2Nico RosbergMercedes1:26.921
3Felipe MassaWilliams1:27.718
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1:27.757
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1:27.790
6Valtteri BottasWilliams1:28.087
7Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:28.329
8Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:28.510
9Romain GrosjeanLotus1:28.560
10Pastor MaldonadoLotus1:29.480
11Felipe NasrSauber1:28.800
12Max VerstappenToro Rosso1:28.868
13Daniil KvyatRed Bull1:29.070
14Nico HulkenbergForce India1:29.208
15Sergio PerezForce India1:29.209
16Marcus EricssonSauber1:31.376
17Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:31.422
18Kevin MagnussenMcLaren1:32.037
DNQWill StevensMarussiaNo time
DNQRoberto MerhiMarussiaNo time
Q1 107% Time1:34.787